Holiday Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Cranberries
Updated: Nov 10
An easy roast pairs with homemade stuffing and caramelized Brussels sprouts with carrots for a perfect Thanksgiving feast for two.
Cooking for two can be a challenge, especially on Thanksgiving when the motto of the day seems to be more is better. This year, why not skip the turkey and trimmings and try this juicy Pork Tenderloin with Apple and Cranberries as the star of the culinary show. Pair it with Simple Homemade Stuffing, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Carrots with Maple Syrup Glaze.
With no disrespect to Sarah Josepha Hale, the girl boss writer and editor regarded as the Godmother of Thanksgiving, not everyone loves turkey. While the fowl has been a part of our holiday table for years—thanks in part to Hale’s early recipes in her Godey’s Lady Book—there’s no definitive evidence that turkey was part of the first Thanksgiving. Proteins probably were duck, venison and seafood.
Fact: Not everyone wants to eat turkey on Thanksgiving.
While many of us like to think of Thanksgiving as this 1942 Norman Rockwell image—the large family happily gathered around a table waiting for a slice of turkey—families have changed quite a bit in the last 80 years.
Many families are scattered across the country and can’t always gather for Thanksgiving. Sometimes, divorce means children have to split up holidays with family. For whatever reason, families of two are faced with something of a dilemma: What do we do about Thanksgiving this year?
Fact: Not every Thanksgiving gathering is large
That's why I love this menu; it's perfect for two people and there won’t be a ton of leftover food. The apples and cranberries create a wonderful topping for the juicy pork and kicks it to the "special occasion" category. The stuffing (or dressing as it’s often called) comes together in no time at all, and the veggies round out the meal perfectly. Of course, you can always add your favorite Thanksgiving sides instead. So, let’s get cooking:
To make Holiday Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Cranberries, you’ll need:
1 pork tenderloin
1 teaspoon olive oil
1½ teaspoons each kosher salt, coarsely ground black pepper, granulated garlic and fresh or dried chopped rosemary leaves
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
5 ounces apple jelly
½ cup apple cider or juice
½ Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
½ cup fresh cranberries
½ teaspoon ground allspice
To begin, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mix salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary and poultry seasoning in a small bowl and sprinkle this over a board. Rub tenderloin with olive oil and roll the meat over the spices to fully coat.
Place tenderloin in a shallow roasting pan and bake uncovered for 35 minutes per pound. My tenderloin was a little over 1½ pounds, so it baked for 50 minutes. And we had enough pork for sandwiches the next day.
While the tenderloin is baking, make the apple and cranberry topping by combining the apple jelly, juice or cider and allspice in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until smooth. Add apples and cranberries and cook about 10 minutes or until apples are tender.
To thicken the fruit mixture, combine 2 teaspoons of cornstarch with enough water to make a slurry and stir into the saucepan. After it comes to a boil, turn heat down to medium and cook until sauce starts to thicken, about 2 or 3 minutes. Set aside.
Remove the tenderloin from oven and let it rest for 10 minute before slicing. To serve, transfer the apples and cranberry sauce to a bowl or gravy boat and place alongside tenderloin on a platter.
Holiday Pork Tenderloin is an elegant main dish that goes beautifully with Simple Homemade Stuffing for Two. Let's work on the stuffing.
To make Simple Homemade Stuffing for Two, you’ll need:
2 cups dry bread cubes
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 small onion
1 celery stalk
1½ cups chicken broth
⅛ teaspoon each salt and pepper
Note: if you are not using the seasoned bread cubes that comes in a bag ready to use, then you’ll need ⅛ teaspoon each of sage and thyme.
Begin by preheating the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat an au gratin pan with non-stick spray.
Dice the onion and celery. In a small saucepan, melt butter and add vegetables, cooking for about 3 minutes.
Beat the egg and add the salt and pepper.
To a mixing bowl, add the bread cubes, onions, celery and egg. Stir to combine. Add the chicken stock and stir.
Transfer stuffing to prepared pan, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake another 5 minutes or until the top browns.
My mom always liked to add sausage to her Thanksgiving dressing (she always baked this separately and never stuffed the turkey). If you also like sausage in stuffing, add 1 pork sausage patty and brown it with your onion and celery. Add the melted butter to the bread cubes as the sausage probably will render enough fat to help the veggies brown.
I used the Pepperidge Farm seasoned bread stuffing, which are like small croutons, it took every drop of broth. If you are using stale or toasted bread, I suggest starting with 1 cup of broth and see how the consistency is before adding more liquid.
For folks who like cornbread dressing, take a look at my Jalapeño and Cheddar Cornbread Dressing.
We love roasted Brussels sprouts, and this next side dish is so good, you’ll want it throughout the year. My daughter and I like charred sprouts; the roasting time in recipe caters to the rest of the population, so your vegetables will not be quite as browned as those in the photo!
To make Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Maple Syrup Glaze, you’ll need:
3 carrots, cut on diagonal in 2-inch pieces
10 whole fresh Brussels sprouts, sliced in halves
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
To begin, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with non-stick spray.
Spread carrots and Brussels sprouts out on pan and top with the brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and butter. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Toss to combine and bake for 35 minutes. Turn the vegetables once to prevent sticking.
Turn off the oven, pour syrup over vegetables, stir and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. The residual heat will create the sticky glaze.
Warning: You will never eat Brussels sprouts any other way than this.
To finish the menu, add a light salad of butter lettuce with blue cheese crumbles and roasted pecans and a simple vinaigrette dressing.
We can all agree than dessert is an important part of Thanksgiving! My Pumpkin Cheesecake Tart is a wonderful cap to a Thanksgiving meal; just cut the recipe in half for a smaller serving.
If you're baking a pie, remember that you can freeze leftover baked fruit pies (not recommended for pumpkin). Just wrap slices in foil and put in a freezer bag to enjoy later. Of course, you can always invite a friend over the next day for a cup of coffee and piece of pie, which is something Mom or Grandma definitely would've done!
Friends are one of the most important blessings for which we are all thankful. I’m grateful to share this space with you, and wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.